The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid
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"The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid", also known as "the snake charmer song", is a well-known melody in the United States. Alternate titles for children's songs using this melody include "The Girls in France" and "The Southern Part of France".
Purportedly the original version of the song was written by Sol Bloom, a showman (and later a U.S. Congressman) who was the entertainment director of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It included an attraction called "A Street in Cairo" produced by Gaston Akoun, which featured snake charmers, camel rides, and a scandalous dancer known as Little Egypt. Songwriter James Thornton penned the words and music to his own version of this melody, "Streets Of Cairo or The Poor Little Country Maid". Copyrighted in 1895, it was made popular by his wife Lizzie Cox, who used the stage name Bonnie Thornton. The oldest known recording of the song is from 1895, performed by Dan Quinn (Berliner Discs 171-Z).
The first five notes of the song are similar to the beginning of a French song named "Colin Prend Sa Hotte" (1719), which in turn resembles note for note an Algerian or Arabic song titled "Kradoutja".
The song was also recorded as "They Don't Wear Pants in the Southern Part of France" by John Bartles, the version sometimes played by radio host Dr. Demento.
Travadja La Moukère
In France, there is a popular song that immigrants from Algeria brought back in the 1960s called "Travadja La Moukère" (from: trabaja la mujer which means work woman in Spanish), which uses the same Hoochy Coochy tune[clarification needed]. Its original tune, said to have been based on an original Arab song, was created around 1850 and subsequently adopted by the Foreign Legion.
Partial lyrics :
- Travadja La Moukère
- Travadja Bono
- Trempe ton cul dans la soupière
- Si c'est chaud c'est que ça brûle
- Si ça brûle c'est que c'est chaud !
- Travaja La Moukère
- Bono Travaja
- Soak your ass in the tureen
- If it is hot it burns
- If it burns it's that it's hot!
In popular culture
Since the piece is not copyrighted, it has been used as a basis for several songs, especially in the early 20th century:
- "Hoolah! Hoolah!"
- "Dance of the Midway"
- "Coochi-Coochi Polka"
- "Danse Du Ventre"
- "In My Harem" by Irving Berlin
- "Kutchy Kutchy"
- In Italy, the melody is often sung with the words "Te ne vai o no? Te ne vai sì o no?" ("Are you leaving or not? Are you leaving, yes or no?"). That short tune is used to invite an annoying person to move along, or at least to shut up.
Later popular songs that include all or part of the melody include:
- "The Grand Wazoo" by Frank Zappa
- "Nellie the Elephant" by Ralph Butler
- "Red Alert" by Basement Jaxx
- "Lækker pt. 2 feat. L.O.C." Nik & Jay
- "Speak Chinese" by Jin
- "Iesha" by Another Bad Creation
- "Out In The Middle East" by George Formby
- The "Little Egypt" segment of the World's Columbian Exposition scene in Show Boat
- "Over There" by Jonathan Coulton
- "Twilight in Turkey by the Raymond Scott Quintette
- "Playboy" by Red Wanting Blue
- "Revolution 9" by the Beatles
- "The Sheik of Araby" performed by the Beatles during their 1962 Decca audition, with George Harrison as the lead singer and Pete Best on the drums (this track can be found on Anthology 1).
- "Hoolah Hoolah" by Can
- "Naggin" by Ying Yang Twins
- "Till You Come to Me" by Spencer Day
- "You Scared the Lovin' Outta Me" by Funkadelic.
- "Rip Rock" by Canibus
- "Killer” (杀手) by Lin Junjie
- "Funky Mule" by Buddy Miles Express (1968)
- "Istanbul not Constantinople" by Four Lads and They Might Be Giants
- "King Tut" by Steve Martin
- "Lies," by Thompson Twins, immediately after the line, "Cleopatra died for Egypt. What a waste of time!"
- "Rojo es el color" by Señor Trepador
- "Cleopatra's Cat" by the Spin Doctors.
- "Toc Toc Toc" by Lee Hyori (이효리)
- "Starchild" by Teena Marie
- "Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si" from the motion picture Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
- "Hokus Pokus" by the Insane Clown Posse
- "Entertainment" by Rise Against
- "Open Sesame" by Kool & The Gang
- "Place in France" by L.A.P.D. (an early band for 3 of the original members of Korn)
- "Skatanic" by Reel Big Fish
- "Menergy" by Patrick Cowley
- "Who's That? Broooown!" by Das Racist
- "White Cigarettes" by P-Model
- "Take It Off" by Ke$ha
- "¿Viva la Gloria?" by Green Day
- Texas fiddle tune "Bonaparte's Retreat"
- "Criminal" by Fiona Apple
- "Grunt Tube" by Blue Water White Death
- "Ular" by Anita Sarawak
- "Ozero Sliz" (Озеро Сліз) by New'z'Cool & Queens
- "Gypsy Reggae" by Goran Bregović
- "Lipstick" by Orange Caramel
- "Monster" by Fred Schneider
- "Let's Play" by PSY
- "Hypnotic" by Zella Day
- "Pyramid Power" by The Swingin' Love Corpses
- "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial" by Pam Tillis
- "Get Back On The Train" by Phish (7/22/2015, Bend OR)
- "Egyptian Reggae" by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
- Music To Watch Boys To by Lana Del Rey
- "Uragiri No Machikado" (裏切りの街角) by Kai Band
- "Glory Hole" by Steel Panther
- "Genghis Khan" by Miike Snow
- "It's On Now" by 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians
- "One for the Vine" by Genesis
- "Egypt, Egypt" by The Egyptian Lover
- In Pat Sullivan's 1928 short Felix the Cat cartoon, "Arabiantics", Felix performs the song on a banjo to get a harem to dance.
- Circus Capers (1930)
- Goofy Goat Antics (1933)
- Goofy and Wilbur (1939)
- Aladdin's Lamp (1947)
- Ali Baba Bound
- Mickey Mouse: The Karnival Kid (1929)
- Mickey Mouse: The Chain Gang (1930)
- Mickey Mouse: Clock Cleaners (1937)
- Goofy Groceries (1940)
- Popeye "Nurse to Meet Ya" (1955)
- Woody Woodpecker: Witch Crafty (1955)
- Vincent (1982)
- The Simpsons episode "Homer's Night Out" (1990)
- The Simpsons episode "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (2004)
- Bob's Burgers episode "Uncle Teddy" (2014)
From cartoons the song has been adapted to video games. It appears on following computer and videogames:
- Dark Tower (1981 electronic game, bazaar)
- Venture (1981)
- Lady Tut (1983)
- Oh Mummy (1984)
- Bombo (1986)
- The Legend of Sinbad (1986, Level 2)
- Rick Dangerous (1989, Level 2 – Egypt)
- Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire (1990, Katta's Tail Inn)
- Lotus Turbo Challenge 1 (1991, desert level)
- Jill of the Jungle (1992)
- The Lost Vikings (1992, Level 3 – Egypt)
- Lemmings 2 (1993, Egyptian tribe)
- Zool 2 (1994, Tooting common level 3)
- Rampage Through Time (2000, Egyptian timezone)
- Mevo and the Grooveriders (2009)
- Andy Bernard sings a variation with a sitar in the "Moroccan Christmas" episode of season 5 of The Office.
- In Charles Lamont's 1932 short film War Babies, it was the first film in the Baby Burlesks series. The song is briefly used while Shirley Temple's character Charmaine is dancing around in Buttermilk Pete's Cafe.
- In Laurel and Hardy's Sons of the Desert (1933), it is heard briefly in a belly dancer scene at the beginning of the convention.
- It is heard in the beginning of Patrice Leconte's short film "Le laboratoire de l'angoisse" (1971).
- It is heard in the beginning of Tim Burton's short film Vincent (1982), when Vincent Molloy is seen playing a flute in his room.
- In Emir Kusturica's 1993 movie Arizona Dream, the tune is being played several times with accordion by Grace
The tune is used for a 20th-century American children's song with – like many unpublished songs of child folk culture – countless variations as the song is passed from child to child over considerable lengths of time and geography, the one constant being that the versions are almost always smutty. One variation, for example, is:
- There's a place in France
- Where the ladies wear no pants
- But the men don't care
- 'cause they don't wear underwear.
or a similar version:
- There's a place in France
- Where the naked ladies dance
- There's a hole in the wall
- Where the boys can see it all
Another World War II-era variation is as follows:
- When your mind goes blank
- And you're dying for a wank
- And Hitler's playing snooker with your balls
- In the German nick
- They hang you by your dick
- And put dirty pictures on the walls
- Elliot, Julie Anne (2000-02-19). "There's a Place in France: That "Snake Charmer" Song". All About Middle Eastern Dance. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- "France, Pants". Desultor. Harvard Law School. January 21, 2004. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
- Settlemier, Tyrone (2009-07-07). "Berliner Discs: Numerical Listing Discography". Online 78rpm Discographical Project. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- Adams, Cecil (2007-02-23). "What is the origin of the song 'There's a place in France/Where the naked ladies dance?'". The Straight Dope. Creative Loafing Media, Inc. Retrieved 2009-09-17.